Tamera Cook's Reviews > A Place For Wolves

A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson
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it was ok

I have to be absolutely fucking honest here, everybody. I’ve never been so disgusted in my life.

I’m going to give you a bit of a history lesson. It is going to be extremely summarized, because I don’t have the space to give you all the information in great detail. If you want to know more—and you should—I would encourage you to do some research yourself.

In the 90s, Yugoslavia broke apart into various different nation states. One of the states that wanted independence was Kosovo. Right beneath Kosovo is Albania, and 90% of people living in Kosovo were ethnically Albanian. Most of these Albanians were also Muslim. Above Kosovo is Serbia, which was largely Orthodox Christians, and Serbia did not want Kosovo to seek independence.

In the 1996, a Kosovan rebel group called the Kosovan Liberation Army formed to fight against their oppression and subjugation, with the goal of seeking independence. They procured weapons, and fought the police and the government for independence in an uprising. Serbian police began to fight back, and started committing atrocities against Albanians, forcing many refugees to flee. Other countries, including the USA, demanded a ceasefire. Following this, the KLA regrouped, and the Yugoslav and Serbian forces responded by ethnically cleansing Albanians from Kosovo. By committing Genocide, essentially. Massacring entire villages, forcing 90% of Kosovo from their homes. Thousands and thousands of girls between the ages of 13 and 19 were raped.

Now, this is a real event, that happened in our very recent past. Not even two decades ago. Babies during the genocide would still be teenagers today. That is how recently it happened. While a surprising amount of Americans have never heard of this genocide, to people from the affected areas, it’s everything. It’s a tragedy that they continue to reel from.

Now, what’s the relevance here, you may ask? Well, a Place for Wolves is set during the Kosovan Genocide. It centers two, non-Muslim Americans, and largely focuses on their suffering, and their fear, whilst being caught in the chaos. There’s something so gross to me about centering our pain and experience in a real-life tragedy that really wasn’t about us. I would like to see this story written by someone who deeply understands it, who feels the pain of their friends and family, who actually was displaced, or threatened. But instead we get the story of privileged Westerners as they viewed the conflict. Which could have been handled well. But oh, it was not. We weren’t watching the suffering inflicted on the Albanian’s viewed through the MC’s eyes. We were watching the MC’s suffering. We were meant to care about the MCs, and screw the genocide victims, really. Which would be fine if this were a fantasy novel, but for fuck’s sake, this novel is set during a REAL LIFE GENOCIDE.

Honestly, reading this felt like the author wanted to set a book in a situation where he could put his MCs at risk and in danger, but he didn’t want to write fantasy, so he decided to set it during the Kosovan genocide. Why do I say this? Because this wasn’t a respectful exploration of a tragedy that really happened. It was all about the MCs, and how scared we are for them, and how much we hope they get out okay so they can return to America and be safe. And, oh yeah, the Kosovans who didn’t get murdered no longer have their family, friends, or homes, but *waves hand vaguely*.

And don’t even get me started on the well-educated Muslim man, Professor Beqiri, who turns out to be a coldblooded terrorist who’s only purpose seems to be to murder and torture and commit harm, even killing his own men. Why, exactly, did the author choose to make the main villain in this story an Albanian Muslim, when it was ALBANIAN MUSLIMS WHO WERE ETHNICALLY CLEANSED? Whatever happened to being aware of what point you’re making with your characters? Another reviewer mentioned that it was somewhat understandable that Professor Beqiri was portrayed as the villain, given that he kidnapped the MCs parents. But that is exactly why I think it was a terrible idea to center this story around fictional Americans. Because most of the readers reading this book will have no prior knowledge of this war, and this will be what they take away from the Genocide. And those who do have knowledge may very well have been affected by the war. Kids. Teenagers. Who already hear about how Muslims are terrorists in the modern world, having to read historical fiction about a tragedy that affected their own family, only to see they’re the evil terrorists once again. In what world is that okay? In what other Genocide would we agree that stories saying the victims were just as wrong should be published?

I am all for ownvoices LGBTQIA. And when I say that, I *mean* it. That’s why I requested this book faster than lightning. But there is a dark side to LGBTQIA books in the community. Specifically, LGBTQIA books that feature a romance between two cis-men. And that, as many of you know, is fetishization. Now I want to clarify – DEAR GOD, I DO NOT MEAN THIS AUTHOR FETISHIZED THIS GAY RELATIONSHIP. I have zero criticisms with the gay rep in this book—it was ownvoices and well done. It’s the reason I gave 2 stars instead of 1. However. I have a strong issue with the way that a lot of the reviewers are reacting to this book, and I have to be honest, a lot of it reeks of women fetishizing gay men. When I read through the positive reviews on here, the running theme seems to be “yeah the war was interesting to learn about and all, but BOYS CUDDLING”, “This was such a cute gay love story”, “soft boys” etc.

Attention, everybody. What the fuck are you talking about? People DIED IN REAL LIFE. LOTS of people. VERY RECENTLY. And the only important thing to you guys is the fetishization and patronization of gay men? Jesus H. Christ, are you listening to yourselves?

Maybe some of you don’t realize that this is based on something that actually happened. In real life. To people who would almost all still be alive today. I hope it’s that you just don’t realize. Because if you do, and you think this is ‘cute’ . . . that’s extremely disturbing.

I don’t know how to get it through to you just how horrifying and harmful this is. To see people calling this a ‘cute gay love story’. I just. Okay. If people were discussing a ‘cute gay love story’ about ‘boys cuddling’ set in the Holocaust while people were brutally murdered around them, would THAT make you cringe? Because this is similar, but this only happened 20 years ago.

Oh, and lets take that a step further. This book about American ‘boys cuddling’ is set during a genocide, where the moral of the story is “Hey, nothing is black and white, and a lot of those victims did awful things too, and maybe they sometimes had it coming”.

I am not even joking or exaggerating. And if you think I’m being dramatic, the author even acknowledges this in his authors note. He quite literally acknowledges that he painted the Albanians in a bad light to show that ‘not everything is black and white’. . . . ”in war, there are multiple sides to every story. All Albanians were not good. All Serbians were not bad. . . . Good people make bad choices. Bad people make good ones. And most people are somewhere in the middle…”

Are. You. SERIOUS? Hey, how about we DON’T try to make the point that not everything is black and white when we are writing a book about a LITERAL GENOCIDE THAT HAPPENED TWENTY YEARS AGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because of course it was gray in real life. But the first mainstream YA book that looks at this setting, AND it’s not written by a Muslim or someone from this geographical area, AND it centers Americans? This is definitely a little too early to be looking at all the ways the genocide victims were evil. I do acknowledge that the KLA did commit violent acts. However, given the enormous death toll for ethnic Albanians, and the fact that the ethnic cleansing was entirely targeted towards Albanians, I think it is wholly irresponsible to have the story’s main villain be an ethnic Albanian.

Look. I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t read. I’m not one of those people. And hey, lots of people clearly did enjoy this book. But if you think that this is fine, but you would condemn another book that villanized real-life victims of a genocide, or centered Americans in a recent real life tragedy that occurred to a largely Muslim population, or a book that featured multiple cold-blooded Muslim terrorists who’s only goal is to kill and torture and who can’t feel love or loyalty . . . then I just want you to ask yourself why that is.

Is it because this book is about a lesser-known Genocide? That maybe you just aren’t feeling that revulsion because you didn’t know much about what happened?

Is it subconscious Islamophobia? The same way so many ignore suffering happening in the Middle East today, because that’s just over there somewhere?

Is there another reason? Are you able to confidently justify supporting this book despite all of the above, despite the harm it can and will do to real people, real people who’s family and friends were slaughtered in the 90s? Real teens who will undoubtedly have lost uncles and aunts and grandparents, who will see that finally, a mainstream book is touching on what happened to their people, only to pick it up and find themselves painted as the villains?

Then okay. Do it. But please, don’t kid yourself. If you think this is okay, own it. Don’t just ignore what this book is because you wanted it to be something else.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the eARC in exchange of an honest review.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 22, 2019 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-50 of 164 (164 new)

Maria Thank you for your honest review. While reading it, I also felt very uncomfortable but since I am not an ownvoices reader, I couldn't properly articulate my discomfort. I'm so sorry you had to go through all of it.

Tamera Cook I know exactly what you mean Maria. I hesitated in writing this too, but I was so upset, and I could see no one else had said a word. I agree ownvoices reviewers should be the ones to dismantle this (and can probably do a much better job of it than me!!!!!) but I also know how dangerous it can be to be the first one to call something out. I suppose I thought...... if some marginalized reviewers were hurt by this but were too afraid to say so because the reception has been so overwhelming, and they're worried they'll end up targeted themselves, they deserve someone to speak on their behalf. And I'm not worried about being targeted, people can come for me if they want, but I have my opinions and I'm comfortable in sticking by them.

Tamera Cook - I also stand corrected when I say no one else had said a word. You did acknowledge some of my points in your own review <3 And thank you for being brave enough to say it before I did

message 4: by Cassie (new)

Cassie Hess Thank you so much for this review. I could not agree more. I was very concerned when I first heard about this book using the Kosovo genocide as a setting and portraying the victims of said genocide as 'bad guys'. And now I can see that my concern was legit. This comes off as insensitive and just done in extremely poor taste.

Maria Tamera wrote: "I know exactly what you mean Maria. I hesitated in writing this too, but I was so upset, and I could see no one else had said a word. I agree ownvoices reviewers should be the ones to dismantle thi..."

Thanks again for this review though. You captured a lot of things I'd left unsaid in my own reviews. Thank you for letting all the readers, including ownvoices marginalized ones, what harm this book could inflict.

Maria Tamera wrote: "- I also stand corrected when I say no one else had said a word. You did acknowledge some of my points in your own review <3 And thank you for being brave enough to say it before I did"

You're welcome. I'd talked to another teen reviewer before posting my review. Even though they were not ownvoices reader of the book (in the vein of Albanian ethnicity), they were hesitant to bring about the problems of the book since they were a) a minor in age, b) not wholly ownvoices reader, and c) were not entirely aware of the history of Kosovo. This is why I'm really glad to find your review, which can help a lot of ownvoices readers from being hurt.

Tamera Cook I'm so sorry, Ina. This must all be really tough to watch / hear about

message 8: by destiny ♡ (new)

destiny ♡ howling libraries Oh my gosh... I had this on my TBR for the own voice rep, but I had NO IDEA about any of this. I’m ashamed of myself for how little awareness I had/have about the genocide in Kosovo, so thank you so much for this review. I’ll immediately be removing this from my TBR and hopefully replacing it with a solid nonfiction title about Kosovo so that I can educate myself better about it. Again, thank you so, so much for posting this.

Tamera Cook Thank you so much for listening. I was initially worried that it wasn't my place to review this book, but then I thought ugh, if someone is harmed by picking this book up with no warning, and I could've prevented that and chose not to... :\

message 10: by Avery (new) - added it

Avery Delany This is an incredible review, thank you for taking the time to write it. I just had a look through the other reviews for this and am appalled that the kosovo war is barely mentioned in any of the reviews but just talking about the gay relationship.

Vanessa (literarynessie) Thank you for sharing this.

There are several instances where I think the criticism of diverse books comes from lack of understanding. A book that comes to mind is The Hate U Give and the dialect Angie Thomas chose to use. Some older readers thought the writing quality was bad but she had a specific target audience in mind. That being said it sounds like the author for A Place for Wolves was projecting some kind of wish fulfillment into a tragedy and that's upsetting. I may be a POC but I definitely have a Westerners perspective of the world that I'm still becoming conscious of everyday for sure.

message 12: by C.J. (new) - added it

C.J. Listro Thank you for writing this. I knew very little about this book, and I certainly had never heard about this framing. Thanks for educating the community.

message 13: by Tatiana Lee (new)

Tatiana Lee Thank you for writing this review I’m glad you brought attention to this

message 14: by Leah (new) - added it

Leah I’m so sorry you had to read this and that the book was written this way, but I thank you for your informative and honest review.

Tamera Cook Vanessa UGH who's been criticizing The Hate U Give send them my way I'll FIGHT THEM

message 16: by Nicole (new)

Nicole N. (A Myriad of Books) How in the world did the blurb/synopsis not mention ANY of this? Never in a million years would I have guessed any of what you stated was in the book. This book isn’t on my radar, but I’m glad I came across your review so I can just push it away.

Tamera Cook (Just kidding, everyone has the right to their own opinions, even if it's about a masterpiece like The Hate U Give! Even if I think they're wrong wrong wrong lol!!!!!)

message 18: by mghrebia (new)

mghrebia Wow thanks for sharing. Had no idea that this is what this book was about...although I did wonder when I saw that it was set in Kosovo.

A. Rupa This is so frustrating. Is there any way to contact the author/publisher? Maybe get a letter signed by the writing community to show how this book is harmful and we're not here for it?

message 20: by Tamera (last edited Feb 25, 2019 08:35PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tamera Cook Courtney wrote: "Oh man, the author is on social media linking to more positive reviews and asking people to like those so yours gets buried. Tragic."

Wait really??? :\ Was my review unreasonable? I really would have thought that if he knew people were genuinely hurt by this he would have stopped to listen. But it doesn't sound as though that's the case if you're right. Is this on Twitter?

Tamera Cook Arupa wrote: "This is so frustrating. Is there any way to contact the author/publisher? Maybe get a letter signed by the writing community to show how this book is harmful and we're not here for it?"

I'm sure if people were to tweet at or contact the publisher they would be eager to hear the feedback, as long as it's polite and factually based. They should know how hurtful this kind of thing can be to real people. Especially the teens they're meant to be catering for........

message 22: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Thank you for your informative review I am not surprised to hear that this book focuses on how Americans felt. That's the way we Americans are raised. Even when you watch the news about say a hurricane in a resort country all you hear about is the poor Americans who are stuck at a clean dry hotel with food and water. What about the people who live in the country. My example of course pales in comparison to what the Albanians went through. Thank you for spreading awareness because like you said for many it was unawareness. Maybe perhaps even the author but shame on him for not doing more research.

Tamera Cook Noor wrote: "I needed to read this review for I’ve read many arguable comments made both here and on instagram about this specific book. The previous book by the same author was, as I’ve gain knowledge, not as ..."

Please let me know what you think!

message 24: by Ayla (new)

Ayla C This book is dangerous. I wish more people were aware. I'm from Bosnia. We know what happened, both here and in the neighborhood. We suffered multiple genocides and attempts of ethnical cleansing just because the majority were Muslims. Even today we have to listen to "You're all Serbs who betrayed us" and similar bullshit (mostly from so-called "Bosnian Serbs". People in Serbia aren't all bad), while, in truth, Bosnia is a very old country. Heck, we even have pyramids, and older genes than Slavic (yes, scientists are confused). Accordingly, Kosovo had the right to independence as Serbs were the minority there. They're the real victim. It just hurts to see something so harmful published. Obviously, the author thinks only Americans read. -_-

message 25: by Alex (new)

Alex I am from Slovenia. We didn’t have it as bad as Bosnia, as many other countries in the ex-Yu. But I have friends, I have neighbours who fled from the war. I hear stories from my parents or grandparents. Some of our neighbours and their friends lost EVERYTHING.
I don’t know much about Kosovo from the perspective of the people from there but I see the hurt the war caused.

But what bothers me the most is that the author was super vocal about women not writing about AIDS epidemic (ok that book was also terrible), but then went on to do ... this.

message 26: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Rose Thank you for your review. I wouldn't have got this from the blurb. Like you say, there are ways of including / addressing recent atrocities in fiction and it can be absolutely necessary, but from everything you've said this is not the way to do it and I won't be reading it.

message 27: by Avery (new) - added it

Avery Delany Courtney wrote: "Oh man, the author is on social media linking to more positive reviews and asking people to like those so yours gets buried. Tragic."

I looked on twitter and haven't seen anything like this

message 28: by Shannon (new) - added it

Shannon Fay thank you for this review. I remember reading Zlata's Diary when I was much younger, and that was my introduction to this war. And unfortunately americans are very ill informed when it comes to atrocities that don't affect them. The don't know about the bosnian war, they don't really know much about the khmer rouge. the only big ticket genocide most americans can name is the holocaust. And I'm willing to bet that is this book were exactly the same, but set during the holocaust instead, and the terrorist were a Jew, people would feel VERY differently about this book.

No cute gay romance would be enough to save it, no amount of intriguing plot, good pacing, great writing, nothing, would be enough to deal with the fact that this book vilifies a member of a group that was literally all slaughtered.

So thank you for this review, and thank you for so passionately explaining WHY this is a problem. I appreciate people that can call out problems in books without insult, without being mean or attacking people, while still giving authors props for the things that went right, but all while smartly making their point about why the problem is and WHY it's a problem. Thank you for that.

message 29: by Ellie (new)

Ellie Thanks for this review. I've taken it off my wishlist as I'd rather read a story from someone connected to the conflict who can treat it with compassion. I should have thought a bit harder why it didn't have a publisher in Europe.

message 30: by Francesca (new) - added it

Francesca Thank you for this review; I had some reservations on the usian washing of the Kosovo genocide and now I am convinced that perhaps this is not a book I'd buy or read.

message 31: by Fenriz (new)

Fenriz Angelo Didn't know about the book but thank you for writing a review to enlighten what's wrong with it. I find very disrespectful to write a story set around atrocious real events and mislead people or don't do the historical research while writing. It only shows that the author wanted an "exotic" setting and nothing more

message 32: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Long The post in question is a FB post screenshotted on reddit (r/YALit). I can't verify the post is real on my own, so I'm going to delete my original comment so as not to spread unverified information.

Maxwell Courtney wrote: "The post in question is a FB post screenshotted on reddit (r/YALit). I can't verify the post is real on my own, so I'm going to delete my original comment so as not to spread unverified information."

it's real. he was asking people in the debut author facebook group to upvote other reviews to bury this one. i can verify. this is also an author who is a constant participant in call out culture of ya twitter but when it comes to his own book he just wants to bury the issue. the hypocrisy is real and this book is so problematic in the way it deals with the genocide

message 34: by nitya (new)

nitya Thank you for this review, it’s honestly disgusting to see genocides romanticized (both in books and film)

LGBTQ+ representation matters but not like this. Nope.

message 35: by Vikas (new)

Vikas Thank you very much for your review, very informative and I agree with whatever you have said here.

message 36: by Jenna (new)

Jenna The author was asking people on FB to like positive reviews:


message 37: by Ju (new)

Ju Thank you very much for your review. I remember reading about this genocide and it was horrific. I cannot believe that someone would one day try to portray it as having "two sides to the story". This is such a harmful book, especially to those previously unaware of the history.

message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

the author is on Twitter acting like these conversations aren't happening. it's so hypocritical, because hes always the one yelling about how authors need to listen, and apologize, and do better, and stay in their lane, and listen to people from the minority being repped. so, what, this doesn't apply to him? he totally thinks if he ignores it it'll just magically go away!

message 39: by Carla (new) - rated it 1 star

Carla (Carla's Book Bits) Wow! Thank you for this review Tamera. I was one of the early readers of this book too. I didn't enjoy it and had a different set of reasons as to why, but I read the entire review and can see why it's such a huge problem. And then to see how the author is treating all the valid criticism of it?! Fuggedaboutit. I like the book even less now.

Tamera Cook A message to any authors (particularly marginalized ones!) who have read this review and are afraid to speak up for fear of being attacked by a clique:


I have your back.

Bloggers and readers, please cosign if you have their back too. We cannot let a powerful clique intimidate marginalized authors into silence.

Maxwell Tamera wrote: "A message to any authors (particularly marginalized ones!) who have read this review and are afraid to speak up for fear of being attacked by a clique:


i think a lot of authors are too afraid of *him* to say anything because of his behavior in the past.

message 42: by Amara (new)

Amara M. thank you for this. a friend of mine linked me to this review and it taught me a lot. i'm sorry this had to enter your brain.

message 43: by rosario (new)

rosario thank you so much for this. I was originally really excited to read this, but I was so ignorant about this genocide. I had no idea. thanks for writing this review. I was wondering, do you have any recommendations of novels I can read to learn more about the genocide? thank you.

Cheyenne Corvillion Thank you for educating us about this! I was planning on picking this up because of the lgbt theme but I had no idea this was based on true events. I took this off my to read list and definitely won't support this book.

The Half-blood Reader Thank you for this review, I'm definitely not reading this.
First, I'm sick and tired of American authors using other country's cultures and now recent history (that Albanians are still in the process of healing from) to write about more American characters. The actual people from said nation is never important enough, apparently to be talked about. Let's centre all in the Americans.

And that's just plain disgusting. It is wrong. I was a child following the Kosovo war, well even before that, when the KLA first started their campaign. Of course, they never tell you about all the horrors, but with some research, specially now that everything is online, one can quickly become acquaint with a horror, a genocide that happened quite recently (and also get acquainted with ethnic cleansing happening as we speak in Asian countries). It will never be too soon to just start portraying victims as villains. Specially with the fake news and Serbia claiming the West was exaggerating what Serbia was doing. Lie to our faces, Serbia, you too Yugoslav forces with your terror campaign against Kosovar-Albanians. When will humanity's horrors end??

A well-researched story depicting the Kosovo war and what Albanians went through would be great. It could be LGBTQIA+ or not. But that's not what the author wanted, huh? How about making up a war? Set in this world, but fictional How about making it about non-American people? How about making up a nation, and nationality and just... Idk.

People who have been through this, all those victims, those survivors, the people dealing with grief and never getting justice, the rape survivors and all the burdens that come with that terrible experience like trauma and diseases... the people who escaped with almost nothing, to not be that well-received in the country they ran to. Oh, and, for once, could Muslims no be terrorists?? Sure, life is grey, but fiction can never completely address that, before we are all in the clear that everything that went on from before the Kosovo war to afterwards was wrong, that Albanians were victims. That they had been victims before! They were forced to live there! The expulsion occurred in the XIX century!! There is a lot of history to research, people!!

So yeah, OwnVoices is good, when not doing the rep by appropriating another group's genocide and misrepresenting them AND making it all about the poor Westerners!

Also, I would like to point out, if you don't mind, that the 3 times you used "who's", it should've been a "whose", just so your review is squeaky clean :)

message 46: by Jo (new)

Jo Berliner I think what's so insidious about the way the book is marketed is that just from the blurb/description, you'd have no idea about the setting/backdrop- there's no context for the story at all, so all you have to go by is that it's an intense YA gay love story. So you could pick the book up only knowing that, and then be dropped into this poorly-drawn backdrop of a very real war without having any understanding of how you got there.

message 47: by Tamera (last edited Feb 26, 2019 07:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tamera Cook So


I'm grateful that the author has acknowledged (Edit:: He did not apologize).

But it feels a little cheap to say he's grateful and listening after saying we were rating him one star 'just because', and after asking people to bury my voice so no one could hear me and my critique.

It's a bit too late.

I'm not trying to be callous, I would've welcomed an apology when this first started. But this rings somewhat false. I'm more interested in what the author and the publisher plan to do to repair some of the damage that's been done to those actually affected by this Genocide.

message 48: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Sands Thank you! As a Muslim who was excited about this LGBTQ love story, I'm so thankful you posted this. We deal with enough hate daily, I don't want to bring it into my home if I can help it. I'm so disgusted

Tamera Cook Tamera wrote: "So


I'm grateful that the author has acknowledged (edit:: he did not apologize.)

But it feels a little cheap to say he's grateful and listening after saying we were rating him one star 'just because', and after asking pe..."

message 50: by Saoirse (new)

Saoirse Seems like a 1 star or rather zero star book to me. None of this is ok. Thanks for the review.

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